National Chili Day February 27th: 7 Easy Ways To Enhance Your Chili Recipe 


National Chili Day falls in the heart of winter, when the warmth of this charismatic stew can truly be appreciated. I have come to find that most everyone I meet has a pretty fantastic recipe, but there is always a dilemma,

How do I make mine different?

Beans or no beans, tomato or pepper based, mild verses hot, steak, ground beef, pork, or no meat at all.  Spicy, smoky or sweet, there are a million possibilities, but we can all agree on one thing: having a bowl of chili in your hands feels like home.

So lets start with the basics and go from there; like a Choose Your Own Adventure, chili style! Here is a simple chili recipe (insert yours if you have one) to use as your ‘base,’ and follow up with 7 easy options to totally customize your brew.

Wendy Is So Basic (Everyone’s chili recipe):

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds grown beef (optional: trade one pound out for sausage)

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 onion chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

3 (14 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes

1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles

1 (14 ounce) can tomato sauce

1 cup water

2 (1.25 ounce) packages chili seasoning

1 (14 ounce) can kidney beans, undrained

1 (14 ounce) can pinto beans, undrained

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon white vinegar 

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and brown ground beef. Stir celery, onion, and green bell pepper into ground beef and cook about 5 minutes; pour in stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes with green chiles, tomato sauce, and water. Stir in chili seasoning. Mix all beans into chili, season with salt and black pepper, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 1 hour. Mix vinegar into chili.

Make yours different:

This One’s A Keeper (traditional Midwest chili)

Add 6 cloves minced garlic and an extra can of red kidney beans to your base. Make your own chili seasoning using cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. 

+Serve alongside a toppings bar with garnish galore. In true midwest fashion, don’t forget the cornbread and/or Cinnamon rolls as a side.

You had me at Tomato (no beans)

Beans or no beans seems to be the biggest controversy surrounding chili. But there might be a good reason to leave them out. A half cup of canned beans can have 1/3 of your ideal daily sodium content. Take the beans out of the base recipe, double the stewed tomatoes, and add 50% more onion and chili seasoning. 

+Put Fritos and shredded Mexican cheese on top, or scoop into a snack size Fritos chip bag for a Frito Pie.

Mom is the Wizard of Ahhhs (for the kids)

It’s all about simplicity with the kids. Skip the onion and celery from the basic recipe, but add a spoon full of peanut butter to the bottom of the bowl before pouring in the chili. 

+Give them cheesy bread with it and I bet they wouldn’t mind if you crushed Doritos on top too. 😉

The Triple B (beer, beef, beans)

This is a self-reliant chili that needs a little less fuss and a little longer simmer time. Adding a 12 ounce beer provides a taste break from the spices and different kinds can be fun to experiment with. Such as a Red Ale would add a touch of sweetness and the bitterness of an IPA would bring out the pepper flavor in your mix. Craft beer has gotten popular so flavor profiles are endless. Keep the meat simple and limit it to one type, a well seasoned beef is faultless. And this macho stew can defiantly handle a third type of been, your choice! 

+Top it off with a dollop of sour cream, green onion, and lime.

The Smoke Surge (smoky chili)

Liquid Smoke brings a depth of flavor that feels nostalgic. Somewhere between 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of liquid smoke will make a good difference. Bacon can be used in place of liquid smoke and have similar taste. Add a few tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar to brighten it up. 

+Throw peanuts on top when serving, or use as a topping for a hotdog or French fries to make a new tradition when tailgating your local sports team.

The Perfect Couple (something different)

Their real life is just as perfect as their social media pictures, coffee and chocolate are always lovely and classy. When these two are paired together it’s pretty exciting, and that applies for chili too. Stir in two tablespoons of instant coffee to enhance the deep flavors of the chili. Add chocolate by using cocoa powder (also two tablespoons) or 72% dark chocolate. Both cocoa options are great but the touch of sugar in the dark chocolate will help balance the coffee. 

+Put sliced jalapeños and feta (or goat, if you dare) cheese on top to intensify the base. Serve with Saltine Crackers.

It’s Pronounced “Green Witch” (green chili)

It’s not easy being green when you’re chili because it is the one that is always left out. Most of the above recipes will not translate to green chili and it is different enough to need it’s own recipe. Change it up a little by making this version and set it into the dinner rotation this spring. 

2 pounds pork

2 (28 ounce) cans of green Chile enchilada sauce

1 (16 ounce) jar of salsa verde

1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (4.5 ounce) can chopped green chiles

2 cloves diced garlic 

1/2 diced white onion

Tabasco to taste

2 Tablespoons corn starch + 2 tablespoons water

Brown the pork. Add all ingredients besides cornstarch to crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours in a slow cooker. To thicken, mix cornstarch with water in a small bowl and add to chili 20 minutes before it’s finished. 

+Top with Queso and cilantro, and serve with tortillas.

What is your secret ingredient? How do you think chili should be served?

Enough is Enough: Things I’ve Learned As A Former People-Pleaser

It’s 2020—do you know where your boundaries are? Or, maybe more importantly, do you have boundaries?

I used to view boundaries as a negative trait. I felt that if I set a boundary I was being rude, disrespectful or that I was being difficult. And, if someone else set a boundary with me, it meant that I was being rejected in some way. Admittedly, during the first 35 years of my life, I assumed that people were sucking on purpose, just to piss me off.

Boundaries seemed to me to be a fancy way of dressing up rejection and finishing it up with putting a big bow on selfishness. I would often view them as misguided attempts by another to interrupt our relationship with their own selfish acts of senseless self-care. And, to be honest, it’s tough for me to type that now that I know what I know, having done the excruciatingly hard (but necessary) work on myself.
During my years of people-pleasing, I would feel panic-stricken whenever I was forced to set a boundary as a last resort, in a moment of panic, anxiety or exhaustion of feeling as if I had to do something that didn’t align with what I really wanted to do. Many times I would be faced with being put in a situation that I didn’t want to be in, but felt forced and as if I didn’t have a choice otherwise. I felt I was going to disappoint a friend, family member or my own husband.

Setting a boundary felt scary, as if it was a prelude to some terrible loss.

I felt that people with boundaries sacrificed love and connection for their own selfish needs. Looking back now, it’s incredible to me I ever saw the world in that way. I am in awe that I ever found it easier to put my own desires and needs on the back burner, or to get them met in some less disruptive way: through feeling guilt, minimizing their importance or blaming others for my frustrations when all else failed.

For years, nothing was worth the risk of disappointing someone I loved; even if it meant disappointing myself.

After many years of growing myself up through the trenches of each relationship of my life (i.e. friendships, family relationships, my marriage), I saw the light at the end of the people-pleasing tunnel.

Yet maybe it could better be described as an emerging new sense of self. Most days, I peer out into seeing a bright, new world. I feel the safety that boundaries create and it is so refreshing. 

Growing up in an Italian family and with a father from New York, I have always appreciated directness and blunt honesty, even if it wasn’t always what I wanted to hear. I always understood that sometimes there have been things that I have needed to hear, even if it wasn’t always easy. So why, for so long, did I not give the same to others? Why would I freely accept that from others but find such a hard time to give that to others for the betterment of myself as well?

I’ve realized that boundaries act as guardians to us.

They protect our energies, emotions and self-respect. They create direct communication over assumptions, avoidance, passive aggression, hidden agendas and unspoken expectations.

Although boundaries are not always comfortable, they are absolutely valuable. It’s not always comfortable to decline invitations (especially if you struggle with FOMO) or when asked certain questions to say “I’d rather not talk about that.”

I type this with tears in my eyes, being so proud of myself of how far I have come, but also realizing how much I put my own needs on the back-burner for so long.

I look back and feel so much empathy for that old version of myself and what I once allowed.

I wish I could just give her a giant hug and tell her that everything will soon make sense and that it will be okay; that the heartbreaks of lost relationships would absolutely be worth the reward of what is learned from them. I would remind her to be gentle with herself and that, no matter how hard she tried, not everyone will be to you who you are to them, and vice versa. Looking into my crystal ball of the past, I would emphasize that the dissipated relationships she valued so much, held so dearly and loved so hard were there for a reason and a season, but unfortunately not a lifetime; and that letting go doesn’t mean you don’t care. It also doesn’t mean that you are letting them, or yourself, down either. It merely means that you loved yourself enough to lovingly let go of what’s not okay. 

I’ll never know whether people are doing the best they can, or not. But when I assume people are, it makes my life better. Generosities cannot exist and nothing is sustainable without boundaries. 

As a former people-pleaser, I’m not as sweet as I used to be, but I’m far more loving. 

Bring Back Family Game Night! 60+ Games for Kids of All Ages to Enjoy

games for kidsQuality family time is tough to squeeze in with all that life has to offer. Good old-fashioned family fun such as playing board games creates special bonds and connections between family members, building and strengthening relationships. Some of my best memories are sitting down with my parents playing a board game. (Clue was our favorite.) Unfortunately, playing board games is something that families are seldom able to sit down together and enjoy these days. Between work, school, homework, and extracurricular activities, catching a break to sit down and create these types of special memories and bonds is tricky. I encourage you to find time each week to enjoy a fun, family board game! Break away from the media and busyness of life to create some lasting memories.

Note: Maybe your family has children who vary in age quite a bit. All it takes is some mediation on your part to help the little ones participate in older age-based games, or have the older children play along with the younger kid’s games. Perhaps create teams if you need help navigating when there are children of different age groups.

Age 2+

First Orchard – This one is nice as everyone plays as a team to collect the fruit from the trees before the Raven arrives to eat it all.

Topper Takes a Trip – Little toddlers love to fill things up son they? This is a fun interactive game where you and your child gather items for Topper the Dog take on his trip.

Monkey Around – Your littles will love this motor movement based game incorporates balance, coordination, and language learning such as body parts.

Other notable mentions: Snug as a Bug in a Rug, Acorn Soup, and Where’s the Bear?

Age 3+

Feed the Woozle – This is the current favorite for my 3 and 4 year olds. Feed the silly “Woozle” his (quite yucky) snacks while incorporating balance, motor skills, and dexterity.

Count Your Chickens – This fun and simple game helps children count and work as a team. Collect all the baby chickens to return to mama hen before the fox gets to them!

Heads Talk Tails Walk – This one will have everyone giggling as players try and match animal tiles and have act out mismatches!

Other notable mentions: Hoot Owl Hoot, Candy Land, Uno Moo, Sneaky Snacky Squirrel, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and Pick Me Up Piggy.

Age 4-5+

Clue Jr – This version of the classic game for younger kids will use their thinking skills to solve the mystery.

Disney Eye Found It – This version features all their favorite Disney characters in a race to find hidden objects. They will put those critical thinking skills to practice!

Rhino Hero – Working or dexterity and construction skills, children build a tower for Rhino to climb, but don’t let it fall!

Other notable mentions: Guess Who, Go Fish, Old Maid, Sorry, Stone Soup, Perfection, and Mouse Trap.

Age 6-8+

Blokus – A strategy game reminiscent of Tetris that challenges players to fit your pieces on the game board while blocking opponents.

Sky Magic – Children work as a team using strategy to bring the whimsical characters back home before there magic runs out. 

Game of Life – A family favorite for years, this game is all about educational and career paths, finances, and other life choices.

Other notable mentions: Pickles and Penguins, Ticket to Ride, Simon, Exploding Kittens, Headbanz, Uno, and Twister.

Age 10+

Apples to Apples Jr – Think the PG version of Cards Against Humanity. Players make hilarious caparisons and judge the best answers.

Blank Slate – A fun fill-in-the blank game where players try to predict what others are thinking.

Bears vs Babies – Players build strong monsters armies with body part cards to take on creepy, mean babies. Sound weird? It is, but hilarious, and it totally appeals to this tween age group. 

Other notable mentions: Monopoly, Scrabble, Checkers or Chess, Clue, and Pictionary.

Age 13+

The Chameleon – A fun, word association game where players practice their bluffing skills to throw others off the fact they are the chameleon.

Unstable Unicorns – A competitive game using strategy, players build the ultimate unicorn army to take down opponents before they are taken down.

Speed Charades – A classic charades game with a twist, teams go head to head simultaneously to act out words gain the points before the other team wins.

Other notable mentions: Codenames, Awkward Moment, Taboo, Catch Phrase, and Apples to Apples.

Age 16+

Relative Insanity – This is meant for family play, harping on family members by creating crazy situational phrases that are sure to make everyone crack up.

Cranium – This classic game gives players the chance to show off skills and abilities in four different areas.

Pick Your Poison – A “would you rather” scenario game in the board game version.

Other notable mentions: Heads Up, Phone Phever, Drop Mix, The Awkward Storyteller and Trivial Pursuit.

The local libraries are a good resources to check out games for free! Sente in downtown Wichita is also a good place to take the family to try some games and enjoy refreshments.

Do you and your family set aside time for board games? What are your favorites? Share with us!

Ten Things I Do Before, During, and After a Tantrum


I’m a mom to three kids under 7 years old, so it’s needless to say that our house sees its fair share of tantrums. I’ve been around kids my whole life. I became an aunt at age 5, I babysat all through high school, and I’ve worked in a few different daycares and eventually decided to major in child development in college.

I thought I knew children.

I knew how their brains worked and that I would be an awesome, calm mom that could remember back to what I studied and I would have happy, emotionally intelligent children. I wouldn’t be that mom in the grocery store with my child throwing a fit because I knew what to do. According to the textbooks that is. (Let’s all laugh about that now because we’ve all been that mom with a screaming child at the store.)

However, there is one little problem with those textbooks: my kids didn’t read them.

They didn’t know that if I did something that my book said would help them calm down that they should, in fact, calm down. So, with a lot of experience, trial and error parenting I’ve figured out what works for us most of the time. Here are the ten things that I try to do before, during and after one of my children has a tantrum. Or as I lovingly refer to it as “going bananas”.

Before A Tantrum

The first thing I do if I sense one of my kids is getting cranky is to be more mindful about the way I word things and the tone of voice I’m using. My oldest son is just like me and has a very short fuse, and things can escalate quickly once he’s in a bad mood. If he senses me getting frustrated and irritated, it’s easy for him to feed off of that and become even more agitated.

The second thing I do is offer a snack or a drink. Unfortunately, another bad quality I’ve passed down to my children is my mood when I get hungry. Being hangry is tough and things feel uncontrollable and intensified. I do this most often when the kids get in the car right after school. I have a water bottle and easy protein-packed snack ready to go.

We get outside! If at all possible and weather permitting, we try to get some outdoor time. Connecting with nature and soaking up some sunshine is scientifically proven to better a person’s mood within minutes. We jump on the trampoline, go to the park, ride  bikes, play in the hose or go for a walk. We all gain a fresh attitude after these activities.

When we can’t get outside but I feel like I need to give my kids a reset button I let them take a bath. It’s even more fun when we add bubbles and their bath toys. I’ve noticed a big difference in my son after he’s had a hard day at school and takes a bath. He can relax and play while decompressing. Water is such an easy fix!

During A Tantrum

I make sure I’m calm. Once a tantrum has started it’s easy for me to get frustrated. I have a short fuse and can easily throw a little mom tantrum myself if I don’t calm myself first. Part of calming myself might mean to take a drink of water or have a snack. Sometimes it means I need to take a deep breath and really have a conversation with myself about remembering what I know to be true about kids and their brain development. They aren’t trying to irritate me and make things harder on me (most of the time) they’re just really struggling to self-regulate. What is a big deal to them might not make sense to me but it’s not about me.

I don’t try to parent for myself or others. What this means is that I don’t do what I think other parents in the store think I should do. I’ve heard many people say that a child just needs spanked or screamed at. However, I know that these things do not work on my children so it’s not helpful to threaten those things just because I think it might appease the people watching us. I try not to worry about being judged by others. This one is hard to remember especially if the tantrum happens in public but it’s probably my favorite things I’ve learned as a parent.

I don’t give in to what they want just to expedite the tantrum. Yes, it might be easier to just let them do whatever they want to do or get what they want to get in that particular moment but it’s not best for them in the long run to teach them that they can get their way if they throw a fit.

After A  Tantrum

When the tantrum is over and we’re all cooling down I like to reconnect with my kids. Sometimes that means we color or do Play-Doh. This lets the left side of the brain (artistic side) connect to the right side of the brain (logic side) and learn. I always tell my kids that I love them. We play a game called “I love you when” and I tell them that I love them when they’re happy. I love them when they’re sad. I love them when they’re silly and I love them when they’re mad. I love them all the time. Basically, I list off a lot of different emotions and tell them I love them all the time.

We talk about their feelings behind the tantrum. Why they were so upset and what caused them to hit for example. I don’t encourage the tantrum or negative behaviors but I validate their feelings they had when they were upset. It’s best to wait until after a fit is over to talk about their feelings because during a tantrum, they can’t process things so there is no learning that happens when they are emotionally flooded.

We brainstorm ideas as to what we can do next time so we don’t get to a full-blown tantrum.

All of these things are easier said than done but they’ve all made such a difference in how we survive the tantrums!

How to Make Time for Creative Hobbies When You’re A Mom


I started making peg doll sets about 5 years ago in one of my random crafting crazes where at 2 am, I thought, “I CAN DO THAT.”  (Pinterest should just shut down from sundown to sunrise. Like the city parks.) I had a good routine going until 3 years ago when our little king was added to the family, and my creative dreams and routines came to a screeching halt.  

Working full-time and balancing the needs of 3 wildly different children left me little time to focus on myself. It seemed superfluous to take time for myself as my list of “Mom Tasks” grew longer and unchecked. But I missed it. I craved it. I was going to have to claim some time of my own, and treat it like the gold it is.   

4 things I did to kick-start my creative outlets: 

I told my kids about my dreams.  We talked about “daring greatly” together and what that looks and feels like.  My children heard the positive self-talk I used when things started to intimidate me.  In turn, their encouraging vocabulary changed to encourage me right back. “I want to grow up to do lots of art things like you, Mama!”  The best part was that they had nothing to gain from saying positive words to me. They wanted to build me up, and I knew I had them on my team. 

I set Creative Dates with myself.  My husband and I decided on chunks of time that I had to myself at the beginning of the week, and we stuck to it.  I looked forward to that time that was specifically for my crafting. 

I had a motivational end-goal in mind. A friend asked me to collaborate with her for Holiday Galleria.  The night before the show, the whole family bonded together in an assembly line of tiny pegdoll goodness to help me finish.  Through it all, my kids saw me following my dreams, busting through the walls I built for myself, and doing things that bring me joy. 

Last (and maybe most important), I worked to find an inspiring tribe.  We have such a goldmine of creative mothers in Wichita.  A few local gems shared their inspirational tips for creating without “mom guilt.”  

Your kids really benefit from having a happy inspired mom.  If you are an innately creative person, using your imagination to make some kind of art is self care for your brain.  Get a sitter and do something for your emotional health! You and your kids will have a happier life if you do.Heather Cartwright, Wichita Fashion Show and Harmonious Posh  

Creating spaces that you can be creative in. It’s nice to have an area you can get messy. And bring the kids along for the ride. My kids love to make jewelry with me.  Giving ourselves the freedom to be creative and makers inspires our kids – so it’s not self serving – although it’s a huge bucket filler – it teaches them to pursue their own inspiration!  – Mindy Fresh, Bee Fresh

I think the biggest suggestion I have is to not wait until you have uninterrupted time, but if possible work in smaller chunks of time whenever you can. 15 minutes here and there really adds up! Amanda Harcus, Occasional Treats

I set up my studio in the middle of my house, because through experience I know that my kids will want to talk to me and interact with me. Kids are curious, and they like hanging out with their moms, right? I have developed the skill of being there for my kids while I file copper, hammer on tin, or paint a painting. Instead of dreading kiddo interruptions, I welcome them.Vickery Ottaway, Vickery Ottaway Design

Set boundaries for yourself and make lists.  You will feel more accomplished, and it will keep you focused. I sometimes share my lists with the kids to let them know what’s going on.  Be ready to grow and change. Not everything will work flawlessly the first time, don’t give up, just reevaluate.Jessie Sterling, Paint the Towne

Being creative is reflective of the Creator God, and that making things with my hands is part of a healthy life.  Now, as a mom, there’s been a huge ebb and flow to how that looks. In some seasons I’ve been able to create more than I could in others.  Finding others who like to create has really energized my creativity. It doesn’t have to be people who make the same things you make either, just people who create and make and value the process. – Ambre Stirtz, Add to the Beauty

Be intentional. Time and childhood are both gifts that I want to make the most of, so that means I have to choose wisely what I say yes to. My personal motto is: you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.  Nicole Strain, Artist and Inspirer of Hope 

Nounou Neighbors: A Revolutionary Babysitting Service in Wichita

This post is sponsored by Nounou Neighbors.

“I’ve lived in Wichita for almost three years and still don’t have a ‘night out’ sitter.” 

I’ve said this so many times, it may as well be my catch phrase. Finding a trusted sitter is very hard. I’ve gotten recommendations from friends and searched for sitters on Facebook groups, only to end up being “ghosted” during the meet-up phase. I gave up trying to find a date night sitter in Wichita, and instead looked forward to traveling home to Wisconsin for one coveted date night with my husband every four months.

But now that has all changed. 

Nounou Neighbors is a “new new” babysitting service that expanded their business from Kansas City to Wichita. I was able to try this revolutionary service, and I wish I had known about it sooner.

Nounou is easy to navigate

I was able to create a login, choose my membership, and post a job in just under ten minutes. It was THAT EASY! As you can see by the screenshot to the right, it has a really clean interface. The website is clear and direct, providing useful information on hiring rates as well as testimonials with this service.   

Nounou takes the stress out of hiring a sitter

Gone are the days where you have to call or text lists of sitters and friends to beg them to watch your children. With this service, you add a job and the sitters come to you!

To add a job, all you need to share is the date and the range of time you would like the sitter to be at your house, the ages and genders of the children who will need care, and the amount of money you pay per hour.

Next, the job is posted to the website where interviewed, trained, and background checked sitters are able to review your posting. If they are interested in the job, you receive a text message linking you to their sitter profile on Nounou. I posted the job and checked my phone a half an hour later to see that six people were already interested! After perusing all the profiles, I chose my sitter and sent her a follow-up text letting her know she was chosen.

It was suggested that I should text the sitter the day of to confirm the job for the evening, but my sweet little sitter texted me first! It felt good knowing that a reliable and trustworthy sitter was coming to my house to watch my sweet little angels.  

Nounou gives you time to connect to your friends or partner

My sitter arrived before the service began so we were able to discuss bedtime routines and expectations. This was my first meeting with the sitter, but you can choose to have the sitter come to meet the children prior to having them babysit (make sure to compensate them for their time). I am a very anxious mom, but I felt comfortable with meeting the sitter the night of the service because I knew she was properly vetted by Nounou Neighbors, and I chose her after I carefully read her profile.  My daughter enjoyed her time with the babysitter, while my husband and I enjoyed having a child-free meal with adult conversations.  

Nounou is the service that Wichita needed

Nounou Neighbors is easy to use, eliminates the stress of finding quality sitters, and gives you time away from your children so you can connect with others. I feel so blessed to have been able to try this service and look forward to using it more in the future.  

About Nounou Neighbors

Nounou Neighbors is a babysitting connection website where they vet every sitter on their site with an interview, a local background check and training. The owner is a mom of younger children, so she knows what we’re looking for! Their main focus is for date nights or a night out. They do not have part time or full time nannies. The majority of their sitters are highly qualified WSU students. This is how the system works. A family signs up for a membership of either $55 for the first month (this includes registration fees and first month of service) and $15/month every month after that, or $180 for the year and that’s $15/month with no registration fee. The family will then post a job on their website portal including the details of their job (date, times, how many kids, genders, ages, closest public high school, rate they are paying and any notes). That job then goes out to all of their vetted sitters instantly. Then the sitters interested will opt into the job posting. The family will get a text message with a link to each interested sitter’s picture, profile write up and phone number. The family will choose the best fit sitter for them from the opt ins list. Then the family will directly text message the sitter they have chosen and make sure they are in fact available and confirm the details of the job. The sitter will come to babysit and the family pays the sitter directly just like any other babysitter.

Seeking Wonder and Beauty in Education

This post is sponsored by Christ the Savior Academy.

Before I had children, while studying art in Paris, France, I learned a few things from the French about parenting. In essence, French parents create and maintain well-defined boundaries, rules, and limits – collectively referred to as le cadre, or ‘the frame’ – but they allow their children much freedom within those limits. Children will undoubtedly test the limits, checking that they are firm. When they find it so, they go on to enjoy their freedom with renewed energy – and a respect for limits. 

Now that I’m a mother of three, the capacity for children to enjoy exploration and discovery within le cadre, noticing things that adults miss, never ceases to amaze me. My toddler son, even on the verge of falling asleep, will stiffen with excitement when he hears a barely-audible airplane flying above, something I have long since tuned out. My four-year old daughter, enamored with blades of grass sheathed in ice, lies on her belly on the frozen earth to get a closer look. On a daily basis, my children inspire me to thirst for truth, to seek out beauty, to slow down, to listen, and to watch. 

After moving to Wichita from San Diego a couple years ago, we sent our eldest daughter to a local classical school, Christ the Savior Academy. Since she started in Kindergarten there, we have watched her develop an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. At first we wondered: what is it that makes her so eager to learn? In wondering thus, we were not far off: for it is wonder.

Being Open to Wonder

This is a venerable truth. The Greek philosopher Aristotle said that in the sciences “everyone begins from wonder that something is the way it is” (Metaphysics I.ii). More recently, Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, noted that “our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence…And I feel that we need a lot more wonder and a lot more silence in our lives.”

It tends to be in quiet moments of wonder and observation that learning finds real impetus. Albert Einstein famously elaborated:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead – his eyes are closed.” 

When we are open to wonder, we become more alive to the reality that surrounds us. It is a deeply scientific attitude, but also a faithful one.

Yet what is it that excites and causes wonder? Modern neuroscientists and medieval theologians agree: it is beauty. Beauty is id quod visum placet (that which, when seen, pleases). Wonder, then, is a type of pleasure: the pleasure of a soul faced with something it enjoys but does not understand – yet. When we make time for wonder and the careful observation that follows, the beauty of what we see will astound us. 

So it shouldn’t have been too surprising that, not just at home, but even at school, the education of children rightly involves wonder and beauty. 

Finding A School That Honors Wonder

You can imagine our delight as parents as we discovered Christ the Savior Academy to be a place where wonder and beauty are given a place. That place is enshrined in the classical curriculum and pedagogy, for which learning is a form of discovery, whether in books, binomial cubes, or garden beds. And this process of discovery moves in a purposeful direction. The consistency of routine, the warm community, and the clear standards for excellence in mind and heart at a school like CSA create a firm and loving cadre in which children can thrive. They feel secure and safe enough to dig their hands deep into the field of each subject.

The classical approach to education at CSA not only supports the possibility of wonder; it honors that possibility, and encourages it. Students are given time to reflect, to ponder, to ask questions, and to draw strength from times of silence. Full of budding scientists, each classroom regularly observes and tends to its own garden bed throughout the seasons. With manipulatives and developed numeracy, students practice analyzing and solving math problems in multiple ways. Through a growing repertoire of vocabulary in English, Latin, and Greek, and generous doses of literature, history, and composition, students expand and learn to share their knowledge of the world in which they live.

Children are willing to get down on their bellies and look closely at the world, in studious wonder. This is what my daughter is invited to do in her school, as a way of leading her into the fundamental skills of thinking, reading, writing, and arithmetic. To be honest, CSA has inspired me to join her in this pursuit: to seek out the beauty and mystery in our midst.

Megan Elizabeth Gilbert is a children’s book author and illustrator. She was raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and studied Art Education in San Diego, California.

After teaching art in Europe for a time, she found herself in British Columbia, Canada, where she obtained her teaching certification in the Montessori method.

She and her husband currently live in Wichita, Kansas, enjoying four very distinct seasons with their three children. View her work at www.megan-gilbert.com 

Three Things We Learned Buying Our Third House

This post is sponsored by Capitol Federal® Savings Bank.

In the last decade, we have purchased three homes (and sold two) in the Wichita market. Each time we learned something new – and each time we did some things differently. Buying and selling a home is exciting, scary and exhausting! Here are the important things we learned that made the process so much easier the third time around:

1. Nail down your non-negotiables.

Figure out what your non-negotiables are for the new house before you even start looking. This time around we needed the following:

  • Three-car garage
  • Walk out basement
  • Neighborhood with young families
  • USD259 school district
  • A price that allowed us to do a 15-year mortgage

This criteria eliminated a lot of houses for us, and since none of those things are easily changed, we knew we weren’t willing to budge on any of it.

Our second home didn’t meet any of those criteria. We’d hoped for years that more families with kids would move into the neighborhood, but it just wasn’t happening. We had loved one particular neighborhood in town since we were in high school – it’s full of families, has a variety of neighborhood amenities and is conveniently located. The only catch was very few of the houses in this neighborhood have both a 3-car garage and a walk out basement. We were willing to wait until a house with everything we were looking for came on the market, so when our current home listed, it was an easy decision!

2. Don’t settle for subpar service.


We were not at all happy with the inspector for our first home. You have control over who you use, and after learning the hard way that it doesn’t have to be whomever your realtor likes to work with, we asked for recommendations and referrals from friends to select a different inspector the second and third time around. Our biggest piece of advice with inspectors is to find one who’s willing to let you follow them around the house as they complete the inspection, allowing you to ask questions or voice any concerns.


As far as real estate agents go, finding the agent (or making the choice to go without one) that works for you is really dependent on your comfort level in the home buying process, your personality and your desire and/or willingness to be heavily involved. You may want a very organized, Type-A realtor when buying your first home or you may want someone more laid back and go-with-the-flow. Agents operate differently and offer different services as part of helping you buy and/or sell a home, so know what want for when you start looking for a realtor.

Mortgage Loan

The same is true for your mortgage company. We had heard great things from family members about Capitol Federal® Savings Bank and no other national or local lenders were able to beat their rates when we decided to refinance our second home. 

buying a house Capitol Federal

They made refinancing so easy and provided such great service we knew without a doubt we’d use them again for our third home. Capitol Federal is organized, on top of things, and make closing so easy. With our third house, we ran into a situation where the sellers had a buyer fall through and were down to less than one month left on their contingency offer on another house. That made our decision to use CapFed® easy since we knew they were the only mortgage company we could trust to be ready to close that quickly. CapFed had us approved within 2 hours, and we ended up closing in 24 days – and they were ready even a couple days earlier! This was a far cry from the lender we used previously who actually delayed closing because they hadn’t finished their side of things.

Plus, they have nine offices in the Wichita area. We thought the office in Bradley Fair was really convenient, and it even has a little area for kids to play and color if you have to bring them with you – such a smart idea! Unlike most mortgage lenders, CapFed services the conventional loans that they underwrite (rather than selling the servicing to another bank) and have incredibly convenient options available to their customers because of that, like loan re-amortization and loan rate endorsement to name a few. We recommend them highly!

3. Be smart about upgrades and quick fixes.

Know which things can be easily or cheaply changed when looking at homes. Don’t let things like paint colors or outdated fixtures be a deal breaker. Those projects can be quickly, easily, and relatively inexpensive to update a space or make it fit your style. If you’re not one who’s able to picture a space differently, take along a trusted friend who is and can help you visualize what a few simple updates would do for the home. With this particular home, I really disliked the exterior color of the house, the interior paint colors, and wasn’t a fan of the fixtures throughout the house. While painting the entire exterior isn’t necessarily a cheap or easy change, I knew it would happen within a few years when we replaced the original siding. Fortunately for us, we were right in the middle of that huge hail storm last summer and got a new roof and all new siding way faster than anticipated thanks to our home insurance! Even still, it’s able to be changed, unlike the layout of the home, the number of garage stalls, or whether it’s a walkout basement or not. But paint and new fixtures? Overall, fairly inexpensive and really just requires some sweat equity, which we were willing to do! It completely transformed the space and made it so much brighter – and way more our style! 

My best suggestion when looking for a new home is don’t let the home buying process overwhelm you! It can truly be a fun milestone and an enjoyable undertaking, especially with the right service providers on your team.

About Capitol Federal®

For more than 125 years, Capitol Federal® has remained steadfast in its corporate philosophy of Safety in Savings, Sound Lending Policies, Quality Customer Service, and Commitment to Community.

Capitol Federal is a leader in residential lending in Kansas and Missouri and boasts more than $9 billion in assets. In addition to single-family residential lending, the Bank offers commercial and small business loans, business banking services, along with personal accounts, including checking, savings, money market, IRA and certificates of deposit, as well as trust services.  With 54 locations, the Bank’s network extends throughout Kansas and into Missouri.

Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender.  www.capfed.com

Where to Sip the 10 Best Margaritas in Wichita

Stop what you are doing and join us in celebrating National Margarita Day! National Margarita Day is on February 22nd (as if we need a reason to drink a margarita), and I scoured the greater Wichita area to find the best places to enjoy a margarita.  Is your favorite on the list?  Which place deserves the honor of the best margarita in Wichita?

Sabor Latin Bar & Grille

309 N Mead Street, Wichita, KS

Wichita Mom suggestion:  Try the Classic Margarita or Pomegranate Margarita on the rocks.  These drinks are large, fresh, and strong!

Pairs well with:  Platanutres with chimichurri sauce and avocado crema or ceviche (rock shrimp ceviche served with plantain chips).



Mexico Viejo

6960 W 21st Street, Wichita, KS

Wichita Mom suggestion:  Try the blended Strawberry margarita.  This drink is very aesthetically pleasing with fresh pineapple and citrus fruits.  On Thursdays, Mexico Viejo has 99 cent margaritas all day!

Pairs well with:  Anything on the menu. Everything we sampled was delicious and very reasonably priced.  I highly recommend ordering the Queso Fundido if you are a queso fan!


Two Olives Restaurant and Bar

2949 N Rock Rd, #120, Wichita, KS 

Wichita Mom suggestion:  Paloma (Although different than a traditional margarita, a Paloma also contains tequila and lime. We decided this drink at Two Olives is so delicious it needs to be added to the list.)

Pairs well with: The Charcuterie board or Mezze board.

Join Two Olives for food and drink specials during happy hour between 3-6!


Redrock Canyon Grill

1844 N Rock Road, Wichita, KS 

Wichita Mom suggestion: The Perfect Margarita with olives (The olives sounded strange to me at first, but it really does work with the flavor of the margarita!)

Pairs well with:  The Poblano Pepper or Fire Roasted Queso and Chips.  (Both of these items can be found on the gluten-free menu! Score for the gluten intolerant!)



Abuelos Mexican Restaurant

1413 N. Waterfront Parkway

Wichita Mom suggestions: Skinny Margarita on the rocks, El Jefe, Sangria Swirl, and more!  Abuelos has so many delicious selections, we couldn’t pick just one!

Pairs well with: The chips and salsa or Abuelo’s Dip Sampler (chile con queso, queso diablo, guacamole, and chicharrones).



Molino’s Cuisine Midtown

1064 N Waco Ave, Wichita, KS 

Wichita Mom suggestion:  The Watermelon Jalapeño Margarita (does have a little kick to it, but I was able to drink it all and I do not do well with spice!)

Pairs well with:  THE ELOTE!  Hands down, if you go to Molino’s you must order this delicious cheesy corn side.  You will not regret it!

Pro-tip: Stop at Juarez Bakery for some sweet treats to eat later!


District Taqueria

917 E Douglas Ave, Wichita, KS

Wichita Mom suggestion: District Rita – unlike any lime margarita I have had before!

Pairs well with: Chips with their salsa, queso, and guacamole. The food was so delicious, I didn’t have time to snap a photo before it was eaten!  Besides these delicious sides, the taco selection was also very impressive! 




Four locations around Wichita!

Wichita Mom selection: Lime Margarita on the rocks, Paloma, or a Sangria Swirl 

Pairs well with: ANYTHING! Felipes was The Wichita Eagle Readers’ Choice Winner for Best Mexican Food in 2019. 




Jose Pepper’s Mexican Restaurant

11423 E 13th St., Wichita, KS 

Wichita Mom selection: Blended strawberry margarita

Pairs well with:  Espinaca dip with chips or their carnitas tacos




Regal Warren Movie Theaters

Wichita Mom suggestion:  Classic Margarita.  I understand this is the most unconventional place on this list to have a margarita, but unwinding with a crisp (and strong) margarita while watching a movie is how I would like to end every week!  

Pairs well with:  Salty and buttery movie popcorn.  



Honorable mention: Los Cocos

With multiple locations around the greater Wichita area, this list would be incomplete without mentioning Los Cocos.  They have amazing drink specials and you can’t go wrong with their $1.99 strawberry margarita.

Honorable mention:  La Hacienda

If you live in Derby, you most likely have been to La Hacienda.  It is a favorite amongst Derby Wichita Mom contributors.  You will most likely find us snacking on their queso or guacamole and sipping a blended margarita.  


Different Social Media Mom Styles: Which Are You?

Social Media is used for many reasons. As a mom we might use it as a modern day baby book or family record, keeping up with the kids’ activities, sharing resources, or even plugging into volunteering events…goodness it’s handy. 

However, we sometimes take for granted how powerful this tool is for connection and community. We have to stay connected, even if on a basic level.

The internet, and Social Media especially, have made a platform for us to present ourselves to the world, and we don’t all interpret that in the same way. Just like we’re not all the same IRL. We have personalities with distinct likes and dislikes. So it’s safe to say that our online style would manifest different as well, none wrong or right.

As this emergence of community and constant connection to the world has sprung with our generation, we are defining how we use our devices. Social Media moms are all unique, and have many things to consider with our World Wide Web existence, but most of us can fall under one (or a blend) of these four basic categories:

The Perfectionist 

Loves beauty and can find it in any situation, especially with her family. She knows how to edit photos well, so well that she might even be a photographer on the side. Her daily stories are clever and entertaining. A darling park is the perfect backdrop for a picture of her kids playing. The Family Photo is art, and the candid moments of joy are her favorite. This mom “friends” savvy moms she might never meet because she knows that although no one is ever perfect, beauty is inspiring. 

The Protector

The Protector is a mom with defined boundaries. She doesn’t like the idea of her child being online. She posts factual posts like recipes, inspiring messages, or local information. Protectors will most likely not use the daily stories feature on Social Media. Seeing everyone’s stories make her smile, and she is a cheerleader from the sidelines. This mom shares limited but important pictures, and might code children’s names when posting about them. She has tons of videos and photos of her kids on her phone, but she’s not interested in showing the world all her heart.

The Ghost

Is she there? The Ghost has social media accounts, checks messages, reads blogs, scans for current events and updated friends’ pictures, but rarely comments or shares. This Ghost understands the value of being unplugged and might just be too busy to participate in Socials. She gives her free time and attention to her family, but doesn’t have her phone out taking pictures because she doesn’t want to watch the world through a screen. 

The Uninhibited Poster

“Life can be messy” is her philosophy, finding beauty and joy in everything is her specialty. This mama will post charming pictures of her child with Mac and Cheese all over his face and high chair. A loved playroom is the perfect backdrop to her life, because that is her cup of tea. The Uninhibited mom is the mom that uses stories to show the world how funny her toddler is. Her posts are real, unedited, sweet moments of her life. She knows the picture she posted would be better if her kid was wearing shoes, but also knows this life is worth documenting, as-is.

So, am I doing it right?

The world is an easier place since we are connected on the web in so many ways,

but also a lot more complicated.

As a mom/woman/community member, we have a right to respond to this virtual environment in our own way. You might fall heavy into one category, or move between different ways to commutate and share depending on the season in our lives. There is no wrong way to express yourself and there is no place for another reason to worry if you are “doing it right” or not.

Do you agree with this breakdown? What would you add to this list?

From Couch Potato to Marathoner: 10 Things I Learned When I Started Running

When I started running I had just turned 41. I wasn’t fit at all, and I really didn’t know what a marathon was. A bunch of miles = too much for me. In fact, any number of miles was just too much at that time!

In a way I’m unable to explain, I got caught by a race advertisement posted in the street: “Women Run” it said, and thousands of ladies in pink t-shirts and matching hats were looking at me, big bright smiles on their faces. Something in me was looking for the kind of happiness I could see in those women.

Women like me. Women like you.

A couple of weeks later – and the day my family was celebrating our first 6 months in Costa Rica – I ran my first 5K and fell in love with running. Three years later, I was running my first marathon in New York and racing my first sprint triathlon in Fayetteville, Arkansas. This is my fourth year as a runner and the romance is still alive.

My life has changed in so many positive ways because of running that I wish everybody could experience it. If you have any interest in running -and if you are reading this I bet you do! – I seriously think you should give it a try! And I’m here to share with you the things I’ve learned, and I would have wanted to know when I was starting this amazing journey.

#1. You don’t need to be fit to start running. I wasn’t. I didn’t play any sports, and a gym was outside the boundaries of my world. What I had in my world were my 5 year-old-triplets, a new home to settle in a new country, a part-time job, a few more pounds on my body than I had wished, and a spouse willing to support me no matter what.

#2. You really need to start slow. Keep it nice and gentle. This is something I learned from doing it the opposite way and suffering the consequences. But you are going to be smarter: small goals, fewer times per week, and an easy pace until you can challenge yourself a little more. If you want to go superstar, add a couple of strength sessions, at home or at the gym, whatever fits better with your preferences and your schedule.

#3. You will need good running shoes at some point, it’s true. But don’t forget about the bra! You can start with the shoes you have now – you will be wanting to get a better pair very soon – but please, pay attention to the bra you are wearing, because it could make a huge difference. I’m a DD kind of lady and believe me, you want “this situation” in control while running. There is a whole chapter about bras in this book Running Like A Girl – check it out, I promise you’ll love it.

#4. It’s OK to take walking breaks, – you are not less of a runner for it. I want to think this is not a prejudice anymore, but it is. Walking breaks are not for people that can’t run the whole way. Walking breaks are for everyone wanting to take advantage of them. Even professional athletes know – and use it in their benefit – that taking walking breaks improves your performance and your recovery time: they would walk during the hydration stations, every mile or every other mile. For more information, check out this guy: Jeff Galloway. He’s been a runner, a coach and an author for decades. 

#5. You don’t need to run alone. Moms are running everywhere. Especially in Wichita, because MOMS RUN THIS TOWN and you can find them here. Ask all the questions you have, meet them in the very weird times that moms’ schedules allow, and the most important thing: find support 24/7. There are mom-runners of all ages, all body shapes, all paces. Beginners and almost professionals; small goals, gigantic goals. There is room for every mom, and you will fit in, I promise.

#6. Your days will become easier days. Your morning miles are not going to change what you need to face on a daily basis, but they are going to change the way you do it: you are going to start your day with a fresh mind, feeling good about yourself and relaxed. Running will give you perspective, extra doses of patience and a big bright smile to face any challenge.

#7. A bad day is not as bad as it sounds. I mean it. You are going to have plenty of good days, but you are also going to have bad ones, and that’s OK. It’s on bad days when you learn the most. Your first one it’s going to be hard on you. Try to be nice to yourself – act if this was happening to your friend and tell yourself what you would tell her. Take your time and then, think about it: maybe you need to slow down a little, maybe it’s time to change your shoes, maybe you found a new challenge to grow as a runner.

#8. You will learn about yourself while running. Believe me, a lot. You will learn about your body, your mind, your emotions. You are going to find out you are stronger than you thought. You are capable, you are resilient, you are in control.

#9. You will feel accomplished. Every single time you cross a finish line. No matter if you run a 5K or 26.2 miles: every achievement is going to be as important as the next one. Enjoy each one. Brag about it. Take pictures of yourself, wearing your big smile and your medal, and share your happiness!

#10. You are doing this for you, but also for your family. Don’t feel guilty for the hours you are not at home. A happier mama makes a happier home, you know that, and everybody is going to notice. Sooner than later – if not from the beginning – your spouse is going to be starting breakfast while you finish your shower and taking the kids to cheer for you on race days. Your children will add extra glitter to your super-mom-hero cape. But even more important than this: you will be a role model for your little ones. And that is priceless.

I picture you reading these last words while lacing your shoes, and that makes me smile. I wish you a joyful and amazing running journey. I wish you to be a happy, accomplished and empowered mom-runner!

Best Kid-Friendly Day Trips from Wichita

We are often asked for our favorite weekend getaways and day trips from Wichita, so we have compiled a list of suggestions straight from local moms. We love nothing more than to shake things up a bit by hopping in the car and hitting the open road. These would be great for the weekend or spring or summer break if you are hoping to stay nearby. 
To narrow it down, we decided to keep trip ideas to under a five hour distance, both inside and outside of Kansas. Additionally, many of the destinations mentioned offer far more than the things we’ve listed, but we’ve included those things recommended straight from Wichita moms. 

Day Trips from Wichita

Day Trips from Wichita: Kansas

Lindsborg, Kansas

(1 hour north of Wichita) known as “Little Sweden USA”, Lindsborg is a quaint town with art galleries, boutiques, and eateries. Recommended often when asked about day trips from Wichita. 
Outdoors + Parks  
Mushroom Rock State Park *technically Marquette, KS off of Highway 40, 5 acre park with sandstone concretions (large rocks that took the shape of mushrooms).
Coronado Heights (closed when flooded), includes a scenic overlook, fireplace in a “castle”, 3 mile bike trail, and picnic tables. 
Swensson Park – let the kids hop out and play on the Viking Valley Playground. 
Eats + Sips
Swedish Crown Restaurant – known for their authentic Swedish food and crepes, yum!
Ol Stuga Pub – the local Swedish pub that claims to serve “the best deli sandwiches in the midwest”
White Peacock – local coffee shop on the charming main street

Day Trips from WichitaSalina, Kansas 

(1 hour 20 minutes north of Wichita) We hear to make it a full day by combining Lindsborg and Salina and that the Rolling Hills Zoo is awesome! *And you get 50% off admission if you have a membership to the Sedgwick County Zoo. 

Day Trips from WichitaAbilene, Kansas

(1 hour 30 minutes north of Wichita) This is a great option to take the kids on a day trip, perfect for museum learning and wild-west reenactments. 
Eisenhower Museum – If you grew up in Wichita, this was likely a field trip spot at one point or another, really great for WWII and history enthusiasts. 
Seelye Mansion – Named one of the 8 wonders of Kansas – architecture, it has preserved the historic home furnishings from 1904 (including original Edison light fixtures). 
Old Abilene Town – in the summer months, Historic Abilene has old western can-can dancers, gun fight reenactments, and more. 

Brown Park Waterfall – this would be a nice pit stop on the way home, previously an old mill, this land now has a waterfall (no signs leading to the waterfall as it is off the beaten path).

Day Trips from Wichita: Oklahoma

Tulsa, Oklahoma

(2 hours 30 minutes southeast of Wichita) It would be impossible to sum up all there is to do in Tulsa, so you can check that out the Tulsa Travel Guide here. But below are some of our favorites for a one-two day trip. 
Gathering Place – you could spend more than one day playing at this beautiful, FREE, riverfront park. It’s been voted as America’s best new attraction by USA Today, one of the World’s Coolest Places by Time Magazine. And did we mention there is no admission fee? *Our best tip is to arrive right when the park opens (9 am) on a Sunday to avoid the large crowds. 
Oklahoma Aquarium – technically in Jenks, OK, this aquarium is a family favorite! With a 300 pound sea turtle, shark tunnel (that you can walk under), and feeding schedules – this is easily a day trip as well. And there is a really great coral-themed playground when the weather is nice.
Eats + Sips
Bohemian Wood Fire Pizza  – this is such a cool lunch spot with delicious pizza, calzones, and cocktails. The ambiance is fun, and we suggest eating on their patio when the weather is nice.  
El Guapo’s – also a great option with a patio, delicious margaritas, and perfect to quench Mexican cravings. 

Day Trips from WichitaDay Trips from Wichita

Day Trips from WichitaOklahoma City, OK

(2 hours, 30 minutes south from Wichita) OKC is such a favorite for so many reasons – namely, it’s close and there are so many great things to do for kids of all ages. 
Oklahoma City Zoo – a family favorite for sure, and a must-do is petting the sting rays and watching the sea lion presentation! *50% off admission with SCZ membership
Science Museum – 350,000 square feet of science, art, and history – this museum is every child’s dream *Free with Exploration Place Membership
Outdoor + Parks
Myriad Gardens – tour the beautiful gardens and also enjoy the surrounding splash parks and fountains *Free with Botanica Membership
Scissortail Park – the ultimate playground for children of all ages, water fountains, seasonal roller rinks, and more – this is a great way to get out energy. 
For more in-depth details about Visiting OKC – see below:

Day Trips from Wichita

Day Trips from WichitaDay Trips from Wichita

Little Sahara State Park (Waynoka, Oklahoma)

(2 hours 30 minutes southwest of Wichita) the central plain’s states very own “little desert”, this destination is a unique and fun option for families with older kiddos. 

Little Sahara State Park (Sand Dunes of OK) – voted the best riding spot for ATVs in the midwest, you can rent ATVs from private vendors and spend the day exploring the desert-like terrain for only $10/day.

Turner Falls (Davis, Oklahoma)

(3 hours 30 minutes south of Wichita) south central Oklahoma is a great place to explore with the entire family and is a true hidden gem. It could be a day or weekend trip – and if you choose to stay, we recommend staying in Sulphur, Oklahoma. 
Attractions & Outdoors
Turner Falls Park – this is such a unique and beautiful spot with hiking around the falls and all-day swimming adventures, perfect for a day trip.
Arbuckle Mountains – beautiful, wooded hikes great for the whole family (not too difficult for young children). 
Chickasaw Country – several from our team have stayed in Chickasaw Country (Sulphur, OK) and had great experiences.

Day Trips from Wichita: Missouri

Kansas City, Missouri

(2 hours 45 minutes northeast of Wichita) there is so much to do in Kansas City and surrounding suburbs from the downtown Plaza (especially during the holidays), restaurants and shopping, Crowne Center Plaza (ice skating), and more. Below are some of our reader favorites. 
Union Station – an old train station, there are fun spots to eat, catch a movie, or traveling shows (it’s especially festive and fun during the holidays). 
Science City – this is an indoor and outdoor science center with maker studios, playground equipment, crafting, science, and more. *FREE with Exploration Place Membership, 
Crown Center – a family dream with outdoor ice skating, shopping, dining and an art-loving kid-favorite: Kaleidoscope.
Sea Life KC Aquarium – sea dragons, an ocean tunnel to walk underneath, Sting Ray Bay, and more. 
Eats & Sips
Fritz’s – the restaurant where you order your food by phone, and an overhead train delivers your meal. 

Buca di Beppo – suggested over and over in our community groups, this Italian restaurant on the Plaza is a fan fave.

Day Trips from WichitaDay Trips from Wichita

Springfield, Missouri

(4 hours, 20 minutes east of Wichita) Near the beautiful Ozarks and considered the “gateway to the great outdoors”, there is plenty to do for families in Springfield. Because the distance is a bit further, it would be a great getaway choice – probably best for a weekend as opposed to a one-day trip. 
Fantastic Caverns – enjoy a 55 minute ride-through cave tour via Jeep. 
Wonders of Wildlife – take the entire day to enjoy this part aquarium (1.5 million gallons!) and part wildlife gallery (3-D dioramas of wildlife habitats). 
Bass Pro Shop – you can spend hours in the national headquarters, or as they have deemed themselves the “grandaddy of all outdoors stores”.
Discovery Center – interactive hands-on science museum *Free with Exploration Place Membership

Day Trips from WichitaBranson, Missouri

(4 hours and 40 minutes southeast of Wichita, 50 minutes south of Springfield, MO) Branson is full of activities for families, both in warm and cold months. It definitely deserves a resource of its own as there are shows, museums, and tons of outdoor attractions including Table Rock Lake. 
Table Rock Lake – this lake is known for its clear waters, perfect for boating, water sports, swimming, fishing, and so much more. 
Hiking Trails – Branson is surrounded by beautiful, green wooded areas perfect for hiking and exploring. 
Top of the Rock Tour – take a top of the rock tour to experience the full view of the Ozark Mountains and Table Rock Lake. 
Silver Dollar City – a theme park complete with rides, a family raft adventure, shows, and tours of the Marvel Cave. 
Lambert’s Cafe – between Springfield and Branson, this restaurant is fun for the whole family and is known as “home of the throwed rolls” (where they actually throw rolls to you while you dine). We hear to go early, and there will still likely be a wait.

Day Trips from Wichita: Arkansas

Bentonville, Arkansas

(4 hours southeast of Wichita) Home of the Walmart Headquarters, we see this one recommended a lot in community groups. With it being a four hour drive, you could make it a day trip if you woke up early enough, or would be a great weekend trip with plenty to do. 
Crystal Bridges Museum– with drop in art-making, preschool activities, and workshops for children, this art museum that combines art and nature is a must-visit for the family. And it’s connected to a 120 acre park with over 4 miles of walking paths. 
City Square – middle of the town near shopping, dining, parks, trails, and the Walton Five and Dime Museum. 

Fayetteville Arkansas

(4 hours 25 minutes southeast of Wichita) Home of the University of Arkansas, this quaint college town is great for a “daycation” or an extended stay for the weekend after visiting Bentonville. 
Botanical Garden of the Ozarks – twelve themed gardens, a native butterfly house, and hands-on learning for children of all ages. *Free with Botanica Membership

Lake Fayetteville – rent a boat or bikes and explore the beautiful outdoors at Lake Fayetteville with a 5.5 mile nature trail surrounding the lake.

Other Helpful Resources:


5 Minute Makeup Using Only 5 Products

We’re all busy moms, and let’s face it – we rarely take time for ourselves. There is never enough time in our day, and I don’t know about you, but mornings are the most rushed in my house.

I value sleep a lot. Like a lot a lot. I’m not the mom who gets up before her kids to have that time alone to start her day or to work out. My self care is sleeping until five minutes before my daughter has to get up. Because of that, it doesn’t leave me tons of time to get ready. I stay at home with my youngest but I still like to look pulled together, and I feel more motivated knowing I look somewhat alive and functioning.

BK (Before Kids), I would spend at least half an hour minimum doing my makeup, and it was so relaxing. Those days are gone, and I typically get ready standing at the kitchen counter while my kids eat breakfast (and listen to the Frozen 2 soundtrack. Duh.).

I have a quick routine that you’ll love and will help you feel pulled together whether you’re headed to work or the library for story time! All of the products can be found at most retailers like Target, Dillion’s, Walmart or Ulta! I’ll link my favorite tools as well in case you’re in need of those.

Here is my 5 minute makeup routine using only 5 products!


Having an even complexion is definitely a must for me. I have some redness, circles under my eyes and sun spots. I dab the foundation with my fingers all over my face and use a damp beauty sponge to quickly blend it in. I find the sponge makes it look more natural and less cakey. This step takes the longest. Maybe one-two minutes.

My favorite foundation is L’Oreal Tru Match Lumi Foundation 
My favorite sponge is inexpensive and found at most retailers – Beauty Sponge 


There are so many powder foundations that don’t make you look dry and cakey and for me it’s a necessary step so my makeup doesn’t slide off my face. I use a brush and just quickly brush the powder all over to set my foundation. This takes me less than 30 seconds.

My favorite powder is Maybelline Fit Me Pressed Powder
This is a great and inexpensive powder brush


I LOVE BRONZER. Maybe I love it so much because I’m a fair Scandinavian and rarely get a natural tan. Whatever the reason, it’s my favorite. It pulls your whole face together. I hit under my cheekbones, around my hairline on my forehead and along the jawline and slightly down the neck. Think of a backwards 3 starting around the temples. Takes me less than 30 seconds!

My Favorite Bronzer is Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer 
Here is my favorite Bronzer Brush


Brows are super important as they frame your face. Thick or thin, a little tinted brow gel smooths them out and makes them looks full and groomed.  My all time fav is a high end product (Anastasia of Beverly Hills Brow Gel) but I’ve found a drug store brand that has a pretty decent one that I use too! This takes about 30 seconds to do. 

The drug store brow gel I love is from Maybelline


Last step and you’re ready! Lashes are my jam. I have said I love every step and it’s essential, haven’t I?? Well lashes are the most essential for me. They make me look awake and ready for the day. I curl mine and use a primer and regular mascara and can still have it done in less than 2 minutes but if that is too much for you, just give them a quick coat or two of mascara and you won’t regret it!

I have two favorite mascaras from the drugstore L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Mascara and  L’Oreal Paris Lash Paradise

Beauty doesn’t have to be painful or time consuming! Take just 5 minutes to yourself and you’ll feel great the rest of the day. What’s your favorite makeup tip you have or favorite product?

Teenager Mom Trials: Homecoming Dress Edition

I recently took my teenage daughter shopping for a homecoming dress. Which is code, I guess, for something way fancier than a church dress but falls just short of prom spectacular. I figured finding a dress that met this very specific specification would be the hardest part about the afternoon.

I figured wrong.

My child tried on dresses in multiple stores throughout the mall for over three hours. Three hours, friends. That’s more time that I’ve spent at the mall cumulatively over the last ten years.

And then we left the mall  empty-handed.

Only to return to the mall two hours later fed, fortified by sunlight, and riding a shopping high having found the “perfect” Saturday-at-State-Debate blouse (at a delightful shop that provided customer service and was not located in the mall). On attempt two, we succeeded in finding a wonderful dress that needs no alterations, was sadly not on sale, and in my opinion about three inches shorter than it should be, but hey, we came home with a dress. I’m calling that a win.

Some of you moms out there are nodding along, you know my pain and my joy. For the rest of you, lean in and let me (and other moms of teenage girls) be your cautionary tale. Maybe for you, there’s still time to fix this mess. 

What went wrong:

  1.  Dressing room drama. What gives with dress sizing? We can all agree that women’s clothing sizes are anything but standard. But fancy dress sizing seems worse than even jeans. While sharing our story with a friend recently, she said her bridesmaid dress was marked three sizes bigger than anything else in her closet. Who makes these decisions? Let’s take these big milestone moments for women and girls and start it off playing head games in the dressing room? Animals! Considering I had three hours to sit in waiting areas outside of the dressing rooms, I have a pretty good idea that it wasn’t only my kid having dressing room drama meltdowns, it was every.single.girl. Young girls of every height, weight, size, and shape were calling for help through closed doors. I heard plaintive pleas of “why won’t this dress zip???” from 9 out of every 10 dressing rooms. And you could see it on the faces of all of us waiting. We all teach a body positive message at home. Every single one of the girls we met that day knows the size on the tag isn’t important. And yet each of them gave in to insecurities and frustrations of unforgiving semi-formal wear.
  2. Why are all the skirts so short? While we are on the topic of body positivity, we are all doing our best to raise young women who know in their hearts that a female shape should never be cause for shame. But dressmakers, shouldn’t skirts be long enough to sit down at dinner without having to put your private parts directly on the seat? Insert eyerolls from all the teenagers here. I get it. But formalwear in particular seems to magnify all the conflicting messages our culture sends to young women and girls. Love yourself, love your shape, but don’t flaunt it too much or you’ll be to blame, and on a fancy night in a fancy dress your only option is ay-ay-ay short! No matter how much work you’ve put in to your teenager’s sense of self-worth, all the dresses at the mall said short = grown up fancy. I’d rather they didn’t.
  3. I don’t even know where to look — on the racks. I am a shop small devotee, hence the lack of time spent at the mall. I’m used to curated selections, easily marked sizes, and a professional staff that gets me, my style, and what works for my body. Thus my favorite places often whisk items destined to cause dressing room drama away and replace them with something perfect. What is the exact opposite of that? Buying a homecoming dress at the mall.  And my daughter is a junior. I get to do this again.
  4. Bring your team but spectators stay at home. Most of the young women we met all needed some assistance. The sheer number of dresses was overwhelming unless you had a specific silhouette or color in mind. None of the racks were marked by size except a few but dresses were filed in every which way. My daughter seems to have difficulty working a hanger. Turns out she’s not the only teenager suffering from this affliction meaning hangers were sticking out, dresses were on the floor or tangled together. It took a team to pull dresses not to mention the help required to get a teenager into a fancy dress. I didn’t see a single girl turn away help. But I saw a lot of anxious faces for young women forced to come out of the dressing room and show each dress, no matter how uncomfortable they were, to a group of family and friends who thought this was going to be fun. Nothing adds to the angst of not feeling like yourself quite like having to do it all in front of an audience.

What went right:

  1. So much body positivity. Seriously. Girls cheering each other on, moms taking their cues from daughters, and even a couple of supportive boyfriends who sat with passive faces until they were asked a direct question. Those of us confined to the waiting area oohed and ahhed over each girl who walked out needing a little boost. It was community at its finest, friends. 
  2. Bonding with other adults. In lowered voices, we talked about where we had been before, what was working, what wasn’t, and commiserated over the ridiculous sizing issues. With a wink and a nod, we gave each other secret high-fives. We helped keep an eye on which dressing rooms were free and helped hang up dresses that didn’t make the cut so the next girl in line had the best selection possible. We helped each other pass the time and did I mention THREE HOURS. Other grown ups were a gift.
  3. Appreciation of each other. At the end of that very long day, my daughter and I had a lot to talk about on the drive home. She appreciated that I was there with her for the drama and the success and I appreciated what she had endured alone in that dressing room, her and the mirror and the dress tag that read two sizes bigger than her jeans. I was reminded that being a teenage girl is hard and I’m so glad I never lost my patience that day.  
  4. Appreciation for that personal service that comes from shopping small. Please send me all the small boutique suggestions for formal shopping. This mom’s heart needs some help before prom season. 

    Photo Credit: Erin Kata Photography


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